If any of you have had the displeasure of an enforced visit to retail hell that is Ikea then the furthest thing from your mind would be to extol its virtues online let alone start up a fan blog site. But this is what Jules Yap from Malaysia did in 2006, starting up a blog that shows innovative ways to customise Ikea’s furniture and creating a large online community in doing so.
If you haven’t already heard the news, Ikea recently issued a ‘cease and desist’ order as, in their view, the site ‘infringes on its intellectual property rights’. Legally speaking this is completely correct and Ikea are well within their rights to do so. But this site was harmless, in fact quite clearly a huge advantage to the Swedish chain, providing years of free publicity and building a community around the brand that would be difficult for the company to achieve themselves.
I mean what’s better than a third party independent endorsement? Most companies would kill for this. And it isn’t some small blogging site (like this one), it attracted approximately 180,000 visitors per week! It was a pure fan site.
Instead of sending out a legal warning Ikea should embrace Ms Yap, see if there are ways they can use this kerfuffle to their advantage. It’s not too late to recover if they play it smart and also do the decent thing.
Ikea aren’t the first company to misunderstand online communities and their worth, in the past couple of years there have been a number of stories of corporate entities sending out legal notices to fan sites – Nutella infamously did the same last year.
One company that seems to get it is Lego. They actively embrace their fans, even allowing them into the marketing process, to help design future products and leveraging the content they create. They have created hundreds of fan clubs so they can get feedback directly from their fan base, while also engaging meaningfully with powerful advocates of their brand and products.
Hopefully Ikea will wake up, smell the cheap Swedish coffee and reverse their legal proceedings – but I’m not holding my breath.